A Bill aimed at overhauling the work visa program was on Tuesday introduced in the US House of Representatives. The latest work visa reforms, if passed by majority vote in both houses of Congress, will make it harder for those applying for H1-B visas as the minimum wage has been more than doubled, from $60,000 to $130,000.
What is the High Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act?
Introduced in the lower house by California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, the Act will make it mandatory for employers sponsoring H1-B visas for immigrant workers to pay a minimum wage of $130,000, 200 per cent higher than the previous minimum wage of $60,000. It is interesting to note that Lofgren is affiliated to the Democratic Party and California is home to the famed silicon valley, which houses the world’s best tech companies.
Who will be affected?
The reforms are being introduced to protect the interests of Americans against the influx of foreign workers in the US job market. US issues 85,000 H1-B visas every year, a sizeable chunk of the applicants are Indians. Indian students migrating to the states for pursuing a higher degree and tech companies that send their workers on off-site projects will be among the most affected by the changes to the visa policy.
How will this impact India?
The effects of the Act have already been felt in the Indian markets, with share prices of major tech companies plummeting. Infosys, TCS, Wipro, Tech Mahindra and HCL were among those badly hit. The Act could also lead to a decrease in interest in students flocking to American universities, thereby minimising the brain drain.
Will my US visa be rejected?
As far as genuine students are concerned, no. The Act also intends to build a “bridge” from F-1 student status to Lawful Permanent Residence. So visas will not be denied solely on the basis that the applicant intends to immigrate to the US. This applies for those holding O-1 (Extraordinary ability), P ( Athletes, Artists and Entertainers) and free trade visa holders.
Does President Donald Trump have anything to do with it?
Though Trump had advocated for applying curbs on the number of H1-B visas issued annually, he did not sign an executive order, similar to the one on banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. The Bill, however, is likely to be passed as the Republicans control both houses of the Congress — the Senate and House of representatives.